The Heavens Declare!

hst_carina_ds2The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

All Christians agree that the heavens and the earth are intelligently designed for a purpose. The God we worship is the creator of all. The marvel, beauty and wonder of creation make known the Creator. The classical design arguments of William Paley and the more recent Intelligent Design movement spearheaded by the Discovery Institute have complicated the landscape. Intelligent design is seen by many people as inherently anti-evolution and anti-science. This shouldn’t be the case.

Both J.B. (Jim) Stump (Science and Christianity) and Denis Lamoureux (Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes) dig into the concept of intelligent design. The discussion in Jim’s book provides a brief history of creationism and the Intelligent Design movement. Denis provides a deeper look at the issues from a faith perspective. The Intelligent Design movement is an attempt “to show that natural explanations of certain phenomena are inadequate and that the best explanation appeals to an intelligent designer.” (S&C p. 53) Although proponents claim that this isn’t a “god of the gaps” approach, many of us are unconvinced, especially when it comes to biology and the diversity of life. Stumps notes: “They are adamant that they have not resorted to intelligence only because there are no other explanations but because it is the best explanation, all things considered.” (S&C p. 53) One problem is that little phrase “all things considered.” Because there is (of yet anyway) no positive scientific proof for design distinct from natural process, and because our current state of knowledge is not exhaustive, “all things considered” necessarily encompasses many gaps. It seems unwise to put too much weight on Intelligent Design as a scientific argument for the existence of God.

Intelligent design as a Christian conviction. Denis Lamoureux makes it clear where he stands on Intelligent Design as a scientific argument used to counter evolution: to avoid confusion in our churches, Intelligent Design Theory should be renamed the “Interventionist Design Theory” because it is a God-of-the-gaps view of origins requiring divine interventions to produce so-called “irreducibly complex” design.” (p. 64) He goes on, however, to discuss intelligent design or natural revelation as a Christian conviction moving us beyond the culture war that has tainted the concept of design. To do this he turns to the two most significant passages of Scripture, Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:18-23. (The following is an outline – with much more detail worth reading and discussing in the book.)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Denis lists six biblical design categories from this passage: (pp. 68-69)

  1. Creation is active. (It declares, proclaims, pours forth)
  2. The message in nature is understandable
  3. Natural revelation is non-verbal.

Artistry and beauty characterize natural revelation. “Natural revelation is like music. It does not use actual words, but like a splendid symphony it speaks clearly to everyone.” (p. 69)

  1. The creation’s message is never-ending.
  2. Natural revelation is universal.
  3. The message through nature is divine revelation.

This isn’t a scientific theory or a few isolated events. Intelligent design permeates the world around us, from beginning to end. Every birth and mountain is awe-inspiring, not just the appearance of a specific species or trait.

Romans 1:18-23 affirms these six biblical design principles and adds two more to the mix.

  1. The message inscribed in creation is rejectable.
  2. The creation makes all men and women accountable.

lamoureux-4-3Design in nature calls us to faith – but it takes a step of faith to either accept or reject design and purpose in creation. Denis provides a diagram (Figure 4-3) similar to the metaphysical/physical relationship discussed previously (Rejecting Either/Or). “In particular, reciprocal steps of faith are essential components in the various interpretations of design.” (p. 72) There is an upward step of faith from scientific evidence to the metaphysical conclusion of design or lack of design and a downward step of faith whereby metaphysics informs the interpretation of the scientific data. In fact Denis suggests that the failure to see (or acknowledge) design and purpose in creation stems primarily from an atheistic or materialistic lens for viewing the world.

He also points out that our appreciation of design in nature encompasses both engineered complexity and breathtaking beauty. The Intelligent Designer is a Cosmic Artists as well as a Supreme Engineer.

But a creation intelligently designed by the God revealed in Scripture says nothing specifically about evolution. As God uses wind and rain for his purposes, so he can use evolutionary process for his purposes. The evidence for convergence in evolution discussed by Simon Conway Morris in his book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, provides a perspective Denis finds compelling.

Of course, it takes a step of faith to either accept or reject the belief that the evolutionary process was designed by a Creator. For me, this evidence from cosmology, geology, and biology not only points to one obvious conclusion but it also strengthens my belief in intelligent design and the God of Christianity. There was a time when I thought that the evolutionary sciences could never enrich and deepen the faith of a Christian. But I was wrong. (p. 82)

The evidence for a Creator declared in the heavens and in the intricate design of life on earth is not sufficient for Christian faith. This takes God’s self-revelation in relationship with his people and through Jesus, the Messiah. This is recorded for us in Scripture and passed down to us through the church. It is also real in relationship even today. Denis suggests that special revelation includes revelation through the incarnation, revelation recorded in scripture, and personal revelation. (p. 65).

Intelligent design thrusts us to the feet of our Maker and forces us to deal with the first and second commandments. … Design puts us in our proper place within creation – we are creatures and God is the Creator. The consequences of design are deeply personal. (p. 84)

Intelligent design as a scientific theory is an abject failure. Intelligent design as a Christian conviction is a rousing success.

What do you think of this outline of intelligent design?

Is intelligent design a useful Christian conviction?

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